Occasionally unintentional passengers also found themselves on board when the vessel was in the process of departing or had already departed port. The lack of wisdom of lingering too long on steamers in order to farewell friends occasionally received the attention of the press:
Three ladies, accompanied by a child, had an exciting experience at Port Chalmers yesterday afternoon, which will probably serve to remind them, as well as other persons, that it is unwise to linger too long on a departing steamer bidding farewell to friends. The Huddart Parker steamer Wimmera was about to sail from the export pier for Sydney, via East Coast ports and Auckland, and the last warning to visitors on board having been sounded those who were not going with the vessel hurriedly came ashore. But the three ladies with their little charge either did not hear or did not heed the warning sounds, and were only roused to a sense of their position when they discovered that the steamer had left the wharf. A frantic rush was made to the gangways, but these had been removed, and as a long and risky jump from the steamer to the wharf was out of the question, a steward on the vessel was excitedly informed of the position. The steward made all haste to inform the officers, but by the time the matter came to the knowledge of the captain the Wimmera was well into the stream and on her way to the Heads. The first port of call was Lyttelton, and it looked as if the unwilling passengers were in for a night at sea and a long train journey home the following day. What occurred on board when Captain Waller or his officers interviewed the ladies is not known, but it was observed from shore that when the Wimmera was well into tho cross channel steam was eased down, and the Lady Roberts, which was passing at the time was signalled, and went alongside the bigger steamer. The ladies and the child were then apparently transferred to the Defence boat, and when the Lady Roberts brought them back to Port this was found to be the case. On their arrival at the wharf a bystander called out, “Have you been to Lyttelton?” to which a reply came from one of the ladies: “No; not quite as far as that—but we have promised never to do it again!
It was not the only time that three ladies visiting the Wimmera at Port Chalmers had overstayed.
Steamship officers are somewhat divided in opinion as to which is the most persistent offender at sailing-time. The inevitable late passenger usually tumbles on board with his last gasp and in a state of mental flurry which renders him supremely unconscious of the rude remarks occasioned by his delay, but at times the fair sex is equally provoking in another direction. When bidding friends adieu down in the state-rooms, their prolonged leave-taking frequently ends in a wild scurry to avoid an enforced sea voyage. The departure of the Wimmera yesterday afternoon from Port Chalmers brought to light no fewer than three fair offenders, who had remained below until the gangway had been hauled in, and three times the gangway had to be lowered in order to let the belated visitors ashore.
Robert Brown 1912
Another visitor who inadvertently fell asleep on board the steamer without apparent intention of an ocean voyage was Robert Brown. The New Zealander had come aboard the Wimmera in Auckland prior to its departure for Sydney in January 1912 and awoke when the vessel was at sea. Having found himself ‘classed as a stowaway’ and with the prospect of being handed over to the authorities on arrival in port he unsuccessfully departed the vessel as it came to berth at the Huddart Parker’s Margaret Street wharf in Sydney. Unfortunately for Brown his escape overboard resulted in a blow to head on the wharf as he plummeted into the harbour. A rescue ensued and the young man was thrown a line and pulled from the water. Following treatment at the Sydney Hospital he was taken to the Water Police Court where friends paid his fare and he was allowed to leave.
Private Leslie Corbett 1915
On Wednesday 6 January 1915 the Wimmera sailed from Hobart for Wellington. Aboard was 27-year-old Private Leslie Corbett, a member of the Australian Expeditionary Force based at Claremont Camp. Corbett, who was in uniform, had come aboard the Wimmera in Hobart to see off some friends and, “being the worse for drink” had fallen asleep and awoken only when the vessel was already at sea.
Upon the vessel’s arrival in Wellington at on Monday 11 January 1915 the military defaulter was placed under custody at Alexandra Barracks and efforts begun to repatriate him back to Tasmania. Negotiations with the Union Steamship Co. saw a ticket issued to him to return aboard the Paloona but that ship sailed without him. Further arrangements were made with Huddart Parker and another steerage ticket was issued. On this occasion Leslie Corbett was to re-join the Wimmera in Wellington on 3 February and proceeded home to Hobart on the ship’s return voyage via Lyttelton, Dunedin and Bluff. He stepped off the ship in Hobart on 8 February, just over a month after leaving.
NB: For his misconduct Leslie Corbett was discharged as unsuitable. However, in July that year he re-enlisted in the A.I.F. and went on to serve in France. He was killed in action on 8 August 1916.
© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021